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the column of lasting insignificance: May 10, 2014
by John Wilcock

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”
—Andy Warhol

The columns that follow
are from May of previous years.


THE WILCOCK WEB: Surely, the IRS has always targeted certain unpopular customers? It probably began even before Nixon's time……Cyprus announced it would escape its debts by taxing bank depositors with more than €100,000 euros but, says Forbes, “like in Animal Farm, some big depositors are more equal than others”. It's referring to banks and others with political influence who'll be exempt from the cuts……OJ Simpson thinks his trial wasn't fair, and there should be a retrial. Aw shucks, he's just talking about his ‘burglary’ trial……The Supremos got few votes in a poll to find America’s most popular judge, who turned out to be TV’s Judge Judy……Starbucks says that since it invited ideas from customers, it's fielded 150,000, and implemented 277 of them (sample: the Mocha Coconut Frappuccino)…..Apple should be using its huge $145bn stockpile to reward its own low-wage employees instead of increasing the wealth of its stockholders, suggests Newsweek…..Only on Wall Street could a guy who lost his bank six billion dollars be still hailed as a hero and eminently worthy of keeping the top job…..And those crooked hedge fund traders found guilty of insider trading, never have the guts to accept their well-deserved sentence, but whine like little boys at the injustice of it all and spend millions more appealing their fate….“The mind is always prone to believe” wrote the 3rd century Greek author Heliodorus, “what it wishes to be true”….Benghazi is all about Be(i)ng hazi…..A teenager who asked Popular Mechanics if you can replace a night's sleep with a series of naps was told no, because “a good night's sleep requires harmonizing your body's sense of time or circadian rhythm and your perceived need for sleep...” Osaka's mayor has predictably been vilified for his sensible suggestion that sexual crimes would diminish if US servicemen in Japan would take more advantage of the country's “adult entertainment industry”. He surely meant to include the ubiquitous and entertaining “Turkish” baths where gentle treatment concludes with a very satisfying massage ……“Next to excellence is the appreciation of it” wrote William Makepeace Thackeray ….The gaudiest and most psychedelic of ‘60s underground papers, the San Francisco Oracle, is being revived….Exploited immigrant victims and wealthy invalids are matched up in Kosovo which has become ground zero for illegal kidney transplants costing up to $100,000 apiece….The current generation of jihadists choose it as a lifestyle explains the Times' Peter Watson (“revenge against everything”) compared to the first generation who were motivated by intense religious study….What better example of the idiocy of contemporary art world prices could you possibly find than that dumb-ass who thought it was worth paying $49million
Dustheads lifeandtimes

for the late artist Jean-Michel Basquiat's graffiti painting Dustheads?.......My friend had to give up masochism. He was enjoying it too much....Amy Schumer is witty & wonderful….Sad or tear-jerking music appears to be more consoling to people suffering loss, according to a new study by the Journal of Consumer Research, supposedly because it was more compatible with their current feelings …. The sooner you fall behind, the more time you'll have to catch up… Current fad for Chinese dog owners: dressing up their dogs with panty hose. Naturally, animal rights groups are protesting …. Sir Winston Churchill is on the new £5 note
Dogs in pantyhose
Credit: The Week

Taxi Treats is the name for a new tiny vending machine offering soft drinks, aspirin, chewing gum, etc. already installed in 250 New Orleans taxis and now going into New York cabs….If the Occupy movement ever re-surfaces needing a philosophical lodestone, it will be the new book by Harvard political science professor James C. Scott, Two Cheers for Anarchy, which points to how ordinary people can change the world….. “Know how to bear the changes of fortune with nobility”—Cleobulus (6th c. BC)

THE WILCOCK WEB: Under what law is someone jailed forever under the mere allegation—without any declared evidence—that he is too dangerous to be freed?....Apparently the new guideline is that a detainee is assumed guilty until he can prove his innocence….And, btw, if the justification is that a trial would reveal too many secret things the government is doing, shouldn't we be told about what those things are?....“Violence” wrote Isaac Asimov, “is the last refuge of the incompetent”….Australian and German naturalists have been speculating about how male stegosaurus dinosaurs would be able to mount their spiky female counterparts unless they had six-foot penises…. Claiming to have studied the breasts of 330 women over a 15-year-period, Jean-Denis Rouillon, a sports science professor at the University of Besançon, declares that bras are a “false necessity” and breast muscles are gradually weakened by wearing them.…Militants who seek much-needed coordinated action against Syria should persuade some other country to take the lead for a change….A victim of the truism that photovoltaic plants become obsolete within five years, China's biggest solar panelmaker, Suntech, went bankrupt and hundreds of similar companies might follow….. A London play about the Chinese artist Ai WeiWei got poor reviews…..

RIP pianist Bebo Valdes who died last week, aged 94

With 4,000 KFC restaurants in China perhaps it's not surprising that the percentage of overweight Chinese has increased from 25% a decade ago, to 38.5% today…. Echoing Confucian tradition that children look after their elders, China will introduce a law next month that allows parents to sue children who don't visit often enough….Chile where 40% of adults smoke (US: 19.3%) has become the 14th Latin American country to ban smoking in enclosed public spaces…..…“Pluralistic ignorance” is defined by Pacific Standard as “the situation in which individual members of a group believe one thing” but agree to go along with “everybody else in the group (who) believe the opposite”…..Only 11% of adult Los Angelenos now smoke, one of the lowest rates of any big city. But increasing, says Los Angeles magazine, is the number of surreptitious smokers who don't want to be noticed….. MURPHY'S INLAWS by Philip Proctor: Those who live by the sword get shot by those who don't. Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool. The things that come to those who wait, may be the things left by those who got there first….. When was the last time that a college or university president produced an edgy piece of commentary or spoke out on a contentious issue? asks the Nation's Scott Sherman, accusing academics of “tiptoeing around public controversy”….. “The thought that she might not be right never crossed Mrs. Thatcher's mind. It is a strength in a politician” averred British MP Roy Hattersley……Discussing the next British election, the Spectator's James Forsyth has concluded that, for the voters, the choice is between “a man who is out of touch, arrogant, and smug, or someone who is out of his depth, weak, and out of touch”…. …..Bloomberg.com reported that almost one-third of the world's richest people avoid taxes by sheltering their fortunes via offshore holding companies….....“Many people cycle or swim to keep trim” writes Charles Saatchi in his new book Babble. “But if swimming is good for the figure, how do you explain whales?" …..The sequester doesn't apply to everybody. Even after we supposedly leave Afghanistan we're still going to give them more than $4bn a year – and we'll cut social security here to pay for it…Of course this doesn't include the weekly donation of those sweet bundles of money we secretly donate to that crook Karzai….. Support the growing ban on Google's stupid Glass---“He who fears he shall suffer, already suffers what he fears”—Michel de Montaigne (1533–92)

THE WILCOCK WEB:When scandalized, your ordinary citizen will retreat, burrowing deep into a hidey-hole and pulling the hole back in on him.” muses Will Durst. “Not the politician. They will hold a press conference to declare all accusations baseless, then publicly resign to spend more time with their family. Of course, nobody gets to ask the family how they feel. Sometimes the smiles are so tight you can hear enamel cracking.”….. Disney researchers are working on a new touch screen that, by sending harmless currents through the user's body, can identify him/her (better than a password)…. A recent BBC program examined the way that the Sharia legal system is growing in England alongside regular law enforcement…. Before ending cooperation between the DEA and Mexican police, as has been suggested, why not knock off a couple of those inaccessible druglords with well-placed drones?..... Bottles of Mexico's Scorpion mescal ($180) contain a scorpion…When the Afghanistan war is over will we keep paying that crook Karzai billions of dollars?..... Instead of a platform high above the sea, Norway's Statoil company is planning a factory on the ocean floor in the Arctic, not only avoiding surface side effects but drilling nearer the source…..Healthier than most countries of its size, the Philippines have accumulated $80bn in currency reserves largely because more than 10million Filipinos send their earnings from abroad….What a pity that those Congressmen who oppose closing Guantanamo couldn't be jailed themselves for a while, to teach them a little something about humanity. Wow! Imagine it: pols in jail. A vote for that would be a landslide….MURPHY'S INLAWS by Phil Proctor: Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he will sit in a boat all day drinking beer… When you go into court, you are putting yourself in the hands of twelve people, who weren't smart enough to get out of jury duty. Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine……..Striving for an olde worlde style, Vlasic reintroduced the Mason jar for its pickles…..The Chinese restaurant in Delhi's Taj Mahal Hotel provides a goldfish swimming in its bowl to keep company with solitary diners, male fish for ladies, female for men. (How do they tell the difference?)….Actress Junie Hoang sued the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) for listing her real age. She lost, so now everybody knows she's 41….Seeking to extend its brand and “stay relevant, get paid”, ABBA has opened its own museum in Stockholm reports Fast Company, suggesting that one the group's songs, Money, Money, Money is appropriate…Also in Head AirbagSweden is the Hövding company which has just introduced an air bag for the head, to replace bicycle helmets. It's expensive and looks ridiculous when it inflates…. “Cocaine results in intense bouts of over-exuberance” and “a tendency to talk extremely convincingly about stuff you know nothing about” proclaims David Nutt, theorizing that coke was the main cause of the financial crash….Ken Burns' brilliant Dust Bowl reminded us that banks in the Thirties were just as greedy and unforgiving, just as quick to exploit poor people, as they are today….2012: the year when there were more military deaths from suicide than from combat….There ought to be one day—just one—when there is open season on senators—Will Rogers. (1879-1935)

THE WILCOCK WEB: Clearly, it’s the gun manufacturers and munitions industry that runs this country because our supposed lords and masters, the politicians all the way up to Potus, pay ultimate obeisance to them and their NRA front…..If Syria hasn't used poison gas, what about all those pictures of dead animals sprawled only yards apart?….Sixteen states are contemplating laws tying unemployment insurance to drug tests…..Unimpressed by the candidates for mayor, Los Angelenos are even less enthusiastic about the leading would-be buyers of the Los Angeles Times: the Koch Brothers and Rupert Murdoch……Two Brits have designed GravityLight, a device comprising a weighted bag which attached to various pulleys and gears then provides light from a small LED for the 30 minutes it takes to descend…That villainous London businessman who made $75million selling phony bomb detectors which offered false help in Iraq, will hopefully go to jail for a long time. But what of the U.S. procurement people who spent millions without bothering to check them first?..... “All things must be examined, debated, investigated without exception and without regard for anyone's feelings” proclaimed Denis Diderot …..At 40 laboratories around the country, contamination has gradually added miniscule weight to the standard Weights and Measures (universally adopted in 1875). It must be scraped off or scientists’ work will be handicapped….The university presses of Oxford and Cambridge are suing Delhi University and a neighboring copy shop trying to stop the inexpensive ‘course packs’ for students by freely copying the $55 technical books. “We have a right to access study materials” says one student. “Curbing access obstructs the process of learning”…. Adjoining Wall Street as it does, NYC’s Trinity Church is more corporate than Christian, giving its rector $475,000 a year and a free town house….Salvaging that huge cruise boat, the Costa Concordia, that capsized off the Italian coast last year will cost $400million. It took 31 days just to remove the fuel…..MURPHY'S INLAWS by Phil Proctor: The 50-50-90 rule: Anytime you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, there's a 90% probability you'll get it wrong. Flashlight: A case for holding dead batteries. God gave you toes as a device for finding furniture in the dark. If the shoe fits, get another one just like it….At Drive-a-Tank in Kasota, MN., you can do just that, in a day-long jaunt that costs hundreds of dollars and culminates with driving over and crushing an old Ford Focus…. Target has moved into Canada, plans 124 stores there within a year…Why don’t they color salt blue so you can see when it comes out of the shaker?....And aluminum foil would be the perfect thing to decorate with brightly colored flags ….British riders are getting too fat for their horses declares the Journal of Veterinary Behavior which lists the ideal ratio between horse and man is 10:1 ..… The chief obstacle to the progress of the human race is the human race-- Don Marquis (1878-1937).


THE WILCOCK WEB: This week’s winner of the A-hole Award: of course, is that arrogant guy who runs JPMorgan Chase after losing the firm $2bn+ and accused his critics of not understanding the market…Donating a similar amount to alleviate poverty could be a suitable apology…. ....Afghanistan's US-hating Hamid Karzai is expected to kiss ass at the NATO summit for just long enough to ensure that we'll continue offering him billion-dollar bribes after we leave his benighted country.... Four of the world’s 21 largest companies are banks in China whose banking system is the world’s third largest….Ten years from now, Euro currency will be valuable as antiques…After years of preparation, the Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner, 43, is on the verge of making his 23-mile drop from a helium balloon above New Mexico, passing thru the sound barrier and temperatures that will fall to -70 degrees…The 2,800 staff that NBC is sending to London to cover the Olympics is more than four times as many as the BBC is using…. Frequent flyers who rack up 25million points with Virgin Australia can trade them in for a spaceflight….….At less than half the price of regular mail, Graham Eccles delivers about 100 same-day letters

Penny Farthing Bike
photo credit: Emily Cunnngham/Guardian News & Media

around Bude, Cornwall on his penny-farthing bike…..And for $3,200 apiece, British Telecom is selling 60 of its iconic red telephone booths. Shipping is extra…. Japan’s NEC has invented a battery one hundredth of an inch thick which takes only a minute to recharge reports the Kiplinger Letter which says it will be used in credit cards, subway passes, hotel keys….. You eat more if the color of your plate is the same color as your food claims the Journal of Consumer Research….German authorities are seeking some way to stop the extreme Muslim Salafist sect of handing out millions of copies of the Koran; 300,000 have already been distributed….Worried by the notion that strollers along New York’s elevated High Line park would always be looking into her windows, Hyemi Cho blocked off the window with a self-portrait of herself. Now, most strollers stop and photograph it…. “Rush Limbaugh accused Obama of waging a ‘War on Marriage’ observed Will Durst. “Everything’s a ‘War’ with this guy. Bet he calls breakfast a ‘War on Pancakes’”….. . “Admiration” explained Ambrose Bierce, “is our polite recognition of another's resemblance to ourselves….. After 14 years of research, Japan’s Suntory company finally managed to breed a blue rose. Something about the need for more Blue Rose concentrated metal ions and a higher pH……….Beijing’s cab drivers are threatening a strike because their base fare ($1.60) hasn’t changed in a decade and these days much of their time is spent stalled where neither traffic nor their taxi meters move….….“In this age which believes there is a shortcut to everything” advised Henry Miller, “the greatest lesson to be learned is that the most difficult way is, in the long run, the easiest”…..Because people are getting married later (or not at all) there has been an increase in “pre -nups” by single couples who want to protect their assets says Money magazine…. With his new novel, Watergate, Thomas Mallon presents Richard Nixon as a surprisingly human figure….A study in Science says test subjects transferred from a red room to a blue room doubled their creativity…And another, conducted by Consciousness and Cognition, says that two drinks—but not more—improved test subjects’ creativity… Writing in Forbes, Singapore’s former pm Lee Kuan Yew says his country is trying to reverse the worldwide decline in the birth rate by opening a bank account for each new child and matching the parents’ contributions to it….Tradition is tending the flame, it’s not worshipping the ashes –Gustav Mahler (1860-1911)

THE WILCOCK WEB: There ought to be a stronger word than greedy for people like multiple-mansion lovers Paul and Janice Crouch whose Trinity Broadcasting Network, a so-called “ministry”, pulls in almost $10 million a year from pathetically gullible suckers. And, of course, even phony religions don’t pay taxes; a law that’s long overdue for a change…. Visible only in Western states (on May 20) is the last solar eclipse that can be observed in the U.S. until 2017… Almost all bonuses should be abolished. If people are paid (well) to do a job why should they get extra when they do the job properly?.... Judging by its colorful catalog you’ll never find a more complete set of books about revolution, radical action, and anarchy than at pmpress.org….. A cyber company called Genius is about to introduce a cordless mouse….Scotland’s Tourist Board is spending $15m to help promote Pixar’s Bravo, starring red-haired Kelly Macdonald as a fiery medieval princess…. … Boring, Oregon (pop: 12,000) is considering a request from the Scottish village of Dull, Perthshire, for the pair to become “twin cities”….There’s a full page ad in Art in America for the National Weather Center Biennale which offers $25,000 in prizes for “art about the weather and the role it plays in shaping our lives”. The deadline for entries is October 1….. A report from Cisco Systems claims that spam messages fell by two-thirds last year—but they still numbered 124bn a day… Britain’s most odious pol, former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw who exonerated Chile’s Augusto Pinochet after his European arrest, is being investigated for his suspected role in sending a terrorist suspect off to be tortured….Times columnist Hugo Rifkind predicts that despite the $1bn paid by Facebook for Instagram, the “fad” will last only six months….London’s newly re-elected mayor, Boris Johnson, plans to bring back the famous red, double-decker buses that were phased out a few years ago…..All three Dancing With the Stars judges are such drama queens…. Can’t remember your password? Use the unique serial number of a dollar bill and make sure to keep it in your pocket….“Good judgment comes from experience” says The Ol’ Farmer, “and a lotta that comes from bad judgment” ….Winner of the month’s a-hole award: the condo Kimberly Bois association board in Portsmouth, N.H. who seek to fine a tenant $5,800 (cumulative daily penalties) for planting flowers beside her front steps….The federal government takes in about $7,000 in taxes from each American every year then spends nearly $12,000 per American, writes Joel Hilliker. “To ‘budget’ yourself to go $1.5 trillion deeper in debt each year simply isn’t sustainable. It’s lunacy…”. If you don’t know where you’re going, quoth Yogi Berra, you’ll end up somewhere else….Long-term use of statins can cause memory loss warns Bottom Line…..Sooner or later some foreign enemy will identify some American as an enemy to be taken out, and will use a drone to do it….Berlin’s Der Tagesspiegel berates readers for their stupidity in declaring war on foreign visitors by deliberately giving them false directions and wearing anti-tourist T-shirts…..Wall Street Journal columnist Jonah Lehrer reports that the origin of the Barbie doll—the first one for adults—was a Swiss doll, that Ruth Handler spotted in Geneva. Luckily she wasn’t aware that her discovery, Bild Lilli, was “a popular sex symbol sold to middle-aged men”…..People are still arguing about whether the death penalty is a deterrent or not but who would be deterred by knowing it wouldn’t be carried out for 20 years, if ever?.... “Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were." –Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

THE WILCOCK WEB: You’d think that Newt Gingrich would have paid for his campaign with the fifteen mil that casino mogul gave him, but no, the pathetic loser is still around begging for handouts…. …. And that charitable organization for kids, the Fresh Air Fund, would have thousands of dollars more for its charity work if it didn’t keep blowing hundreds of thousands of dollars on full page ads congratulating itself on what a good job it’s doing…. Can you think of five unusual ways to use a brick? That’s one of the tasks to be accomplished by apprentices vying for a job with Fox television in the program it will initiate next month….Seems that Wal-Mart has bribed enough Congressmen to avoid being investigated…. Archaeologists says the husks and stalks they‘ve dug up from ancient Peruvian site shows that the inhabitants were making popcorn over an open fire 6,000 years ago….A demographic catastrophe is looming warns the weekly Standard with only three per cent of the world’s population living in a country where the fertility rate is not dropping. Israel, it says, is the only First World country where women have enough babies to sustain the population …..“Most of the stuff people worry about ain’t never happen anyway” says The Ol’ Farmer…Following a deal with the FCC after acquiring NBC, Comcast agreed to launch new minority-owned TV channels, half of which are about to appear… The exorbitant hourly rates lawyers charge is partly explained by the fact that big law firms pay fledgling, inexperienced beginners $3,000 per week when they start….Companies are not only too big to fail but apparently their crooked CEOs are too big to be prosecuted…. Prison is a very expensive way of making bad people worse opined former British minister Douglas Hurd….In Colombia they’re combining old AK-47s and guitars into

AK47 GuitarAKF/Getty Archives

instruments they call escopetarra….Pirates have created so much (unwanted) action off the Somalia coast that the tuna and marlin population is coming back after earlier being a victim of overfishing…. Indoor solar power sounds like an oxymoron says the Economist but it’s about to become an industry now that a Swiss firm has invented a dye-based ‘solar’ cell that can pick up dim or diffuse light….Twitter is a conservative force, an “anti-revolutionary” device that keeps the world “quiet and peaceful” writes Simon Kuper in the Financial Times, describing online networking as “the perfect narcotic”…. New York’s Norman Mailer Center will present what it describes as “the first annual Muhammad Ali writing awards on ethics” at a benefit gala at a Manhattan hotel in October. The Center says it currently has two intern vacancies... .

New York’s Norman Mailer Center will present what it describes as “the first annual Muhammad Ali writing awards on ethics” at a benefit gala at a Manhattan hotel in October…

One way you can detect liars, says Utne Reader, is that they use fewer words so that they don’t contradict themselves…. Insurance may indeed cover accidents when you rent a car, reports Bottom Line, but some firms require extra insurance for “loss of use” which can involve hundreds of dollars imposed for the repair time…. Testifying in the trial of Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi, one model said strippers dressed as nuns were a favorite at his parties…Five daily papers owned by Johnston Press, the UK’s second biggest regional chain have been turned into weeklies and most of the company’s other small-town dailies may follow them later this year…. Maybe some of those famous foie gras chefs should sample force-feeding each other so that they can prove how benign it is….“Powerful indeed, is the empire of habit”—Publilius Syrus (1st c. BC)

JW is taking some time away to mend in hospital and looks forward to returning soon.

Bakewell (part 2), its mayor, and its pudding...

National Weed (1974, issue #3)

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Marijuana—The Weed That Changed the World

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John Wilcock at the New York Times

It was the first handwritten letter I'd received in 5 years. Or maybe 10. Signed by John Wilcock, a man I'd never heard of, and postmarked Ojai, Calif., it was waiting for me when I returned from my São Paulo-to-New York summer trip. Mr. Wilcock wrote that he had been an assistant editor at The Times Travel section back in the 1950s, and had written the first editions of “Mexico on $5 a Day,” “Greece on $5 a Day” and “Japan on $5 a Day” for Arthur Frommer in the 1960s.

By George, I thought. This man was the original Frugal Traveler.

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A Guide to Occult Britain

Forty years ago the second of my three books about magic was published, A Guide to Occult Britain (Sidgwick & Jackson) covering a wide range of sites from Stonehenge to Loch Ness and King Arthur country to the witches of Pendle Hill. It is now available as an eBook on amazon.com.

Manhattan MemoriesManhattan Memories
An Autobiography
by John Wilcock

"A GOOD WAY to describe John Wilcock is to say that he is a talented bohemian counter-culture journalist who once played a major role in the emergence of America’s underground press. Born 1927 in Sheffield, England, he left school aged 16 to work on various newspapers in England, and on Toronto periodicals before moving to New York City. There in 1955 he became one of the five founders of the Village Voice in which he and co-founder Norman Mailer wrote weekly columns. Wilcock called his column “The Village Square”, an intended pun. He and young Mailer were not quite friends, although Wilcock was at times annoyed, but always amused, by Mailer’s monstrous ego."

-From the preface of Manhattan Memories, by Martin Gardner